Keep Learning!

When a rocket gets launched into the space, the whole world gets excited about it (regardless of which country sends it ‘up’). Everyone is eager on obtaining up-to-date and detailed information about the voyage. People follow every move and development of the space shuttle in the TV and newspaper until it returns to earth once again.

Scientific breakthrough, great and small, draws the attention of many. New knowledge and discoveries in the fields of natural and physical sciences, psychology, medicine and health, and business are received and celebrated with enthusiasm. They are indeed appreciated and more such discoveries are encouraged from time to time.

Sadly, the aforementioned experience does not hold true for educators and others in the school system. New ideas and discoveries to improve teaching and learning in the classroom are either discarded, or heavily criticized. Usually, innovation in the field of education is dismissed as being ‘nothing much than idealistic scheme with no apparent positive outcomes’. This prejudice precedes an attempt to investigate the validity and effectiveness of a new idea proposed. In the end, many such useful thoughts for significant educational reformation and advancement are completely ignored and prematurely rejected.

Although education in general makes ‘believers’ out of people, teacher education has successfully made ‘skeptics’ out of teachers. These teachers are narrow-minded and unwilling to learn. They are afraid of exposing themselves to new ideas. Often, they give excuses. They rationalize (a form of defense mechanism) saying that they have enough to do, they are not interested because they are learning something else, they almost retiring, they have tried it and didn’t find it useful, they can’t afford it, the administrators are not supportive, etc. These excuses are baseless. They reflect a childish approach to dealing with the profession of teaching. They echo the following internal dialogue of an apathetic teacher:

“I am satisfied with what I am doing now. Don’t trouble me. I am too lazy for anything new!”

The underlying attitude toward continual learning makes the difference. If teachers hold a positive attitude toward life-long learning (not just for personal growth, but also to improve teaching), they will not waste their time and energy formulating these excuses in the first place. Instead, they will spend the same energy to investigate and learn new things to enhance teaching, on a daily basis.

Caring teachers are passionate about familiarizing themselves with innovative ideas that could significantly address and solve various problems in teaching. When they are unsure about a new method or theory, they give themselves some time and try it out anyway. They do not dismiss the method or theory before testing it in actual classroom settings and evaluating (for themselves) the effectiveness and usefulness of such innovation. In other words, caring teachers are true learners!

Unlike other teachers who would rather choose to go on with existing ill-practices and conflicts in the classroom, caring teachers continually seek for ways to make changes and take advantage of latest educational inventions (in the form of ideas, principles, theories, materials, methods, etc.).

Some teachers are indifferent to educational innovation because they fear success. These teachers know that learning and implementing new teaching practices will result in constructive experiences at school (for both the teacher and students). Success in teaching usually means more responsibilities. A teacher who holds the ‘I don’t care’ attitude toward his/her profession does not accept additional responsibilities, even when he/she knows that his/her contributions are needed and appreciated. He/she would shun responsibilities and do as minimum as possible as a teacher, simply because he/she fears that his/her accomplishments might make him/her more useful.

There are others who reject new ideas and suggestions to improve teaching on the basis of pride (the number one cause for a teacher’s downfall). Although teachers do not directly voice their abhorrence (toward learning something new related to teaching and learning) in the public, meeting and talking to many teachers (across the world) have helped me realize that teachers (especially the ‘not so effective’ ones) engage in the following internal dialogue:

“I know it all. I have been teaching for many years now. Who are you to teach me about teaching?”

When I first heard about Highly Effective Questioning (HEQ), I was arrogant too. I thought to myself: “Why learn and use another method, a rigorous one for that matter, when we already have many nicey-nice methods?”

Later, after learning about HEQ in detail and utilizing it several times, I was amazed at how students were encouraged to learn and think for themselves using systematic and progressive questioning. Had I dismissed HEQ as merely another idealistic thought, I would have remained ignorant about a very powerful tool that makes learning intentional and effective. Moreover, my willingness to learn HEQ has brought much personal and professional reward. More importantly, it has given me the privilege of acquaintance and friendship with the founder of the method itself (Dr. Ivan Hannel) – which for me, is the most valuable reward of all!

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Personally, I have learned through several experiences that being open-minded to new learning is essentially more fruitful than deciding to avoid new territories of knowledge to improve classroom practices. However, we are beings of choice. Thus, no one can actually force you and me to do this. All I want to do is to encourage you to learn new things as you go on with your profession as a teacher.

If you truly desire to become a caring teacher, you will choose to do what I have chosen to do, over and over again…learn and keep learning!

Copyright May 2006 by Dr. Edward Roy Krishnan,

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